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Aardvark Video Recently Built Their Own High-Powered Computer for Multiple Camera Live Stream Events
Using WireCast software and BlackMagic design cards, Aardvark Video, a full service Las Vegas video production company, put together a unique computer for live-broadcasting.
By: Aardvark Video & Media Productions
Telestream Wirecast has long been recognized as one of the most efficient, stable, and feature-rich software based live-switchers for streaming. Their latest software version 5.01 added many needed enhancements, including the capability to record a high quality program output to hard drive as well as support for the new Mavericks OS on Mac.
We do professional video production covering all aspects of video for business, so we need to have the capability to live switch multiple cameras while streaming, and so we wanted to build a system that would be compact yet have the power to do at least three camera inputs, take a networked PC input showing Powerpoint or other screen capture and not only record directly to hard drive, but also send the program output to other devices for redundant recording or possibly IMag projection plus live streaming, all inexpensively.
We have a Tricaster 455 which has 4 SDI inputs, can take a network PC feed through the iVGA utility for including Powerpoint and other screen capture from networked computers and can record to hard drive, send program outputs to other devices and also live-stream. It does work as advertised. This unit cost us around $15,000. When Newtek introduced a software upgrade for the 455 to a 460 priced at $3000, we felt it was a better choice to spend our money on an entirely new machine. That was the incentive for building the Wirecast based computer. This would also serve those times when we need to have two streaming or switching setups at the same time for multiple crews or wanted a less expensive unit out on the field. We didn’t want to spend that much money on an optional software upgrade but wanted to have much of the utility capabilities the Tricaster provides in another machine.
BlackMagic has several cards that provide inputs and outputs. We wanted to build a machine that had at least 3 SDI inputs for cameras, input for HDMI cameras if necessary, an input for a networked PC screen capture and the ability to record a program output to SDI or HDMI or both.
With this system and available BlackMagic cards we met all our objectives.
Our Wirecast machine is built around a 4770 i7 Haswell processor in a full size Gigabyte Motherboard with 32 Gig of memory and a GT640 graphic card, two 2TB seagate 7200rpm drives in a Raid O configuration, a Samsung EVO 250Gig SSD system drive and a separate 1TB Toshiba 72oo rpm drive for graphics and other data, and a DVD drive all mounted in a compact iStar 3 RU rack mount case. Additionally we have a USB 3 built-in card reader mounted in front. We have nine USB 3 inputs and two USB2. In it’s current configuration it has a BlackMagic Duo (2 SDI in and out), Mini Recorder (SDI or HDMI in), and Intensity Pro (HDMI or Component in/out) and a Mini Monitor (SDI or HDMI out). With the graphic card we are using 5 PCIe slots, and with the one slot size of the GT640 not blocking other slots, have another one spare. In addition to the networked PC input(s) possible through the Wirecast “Desktop Presenter” utility, this gives three SDI camera inputs through the Duo and Mini Recorder cards and if we wanted more inputs, we could put a Quad card in place of the Duo or another Mini Recorder. The Intensity card can be used for a 4th camera input HDMI or Component or as an output device but not both at the same time. We can get a program output through the Mini Monitor (SDI or HDMI), Duo (SDI) or the Intensity Pro card (HDMI or Component) depending on how we configure it.
This is what our testing showed:
*The Mini Recorder works perfectly for either SDI or HDMI in.
*The Duo card, though it has SDI inputs and outputs works for two inputs and/or two outputs, but you can’t use the same channel input and output at the same time for different purposes, such as a program out while an input is being used for a camera. If you use an input, the corresponding output is a loop-through which if needed can be used for ISO recording. If an input is not hooked up, the output can be used as a program out.
*The Intensity Pro card works much the same as the Duo card in this regard.
*The Mini-Monitor works perfectly as a program out for either SDI or HDMI but not both at the same time.
*When using the outputs of any of these cards, Wirecast gives options for setting the type of output; 1080i, 1080 29.97P, NTSC 4:3, etc.
In our configuration, we hooked up the cards with the program outputs hooked up to both the SDI out of the Mini Monitor and the Intensity Pro HDMI out to an Atomos Samurai Blade (SDI) and Ninja 2 (HDMI) hard drive recorders respectively at the same time, and they both work allowing us to capture footage in Pro Res 422, Pro Res HQ, Pro Res LT or for Avid. Wirecast itself allows recording internally to our Raid in any of the codecs on the machine. With this set up we can record internally and also record or send a program output externally for projection, a program monitor,or whatever.
If we want to record ISO, we can hook up 2 cameras to the Duo card inputs and record the loop through SDI outputs to other Atomos Samurai Blade recorders. If we had the Quad card, we could do this for 4 camera sources.
This entire system costs under $3000 and that includes the $330 cost of 32gig of memory, $300 for the CPU $500 for the Duo card and around $500 for the Mini-Recorder, Mini-Monitor and Intensity card.
As a postscript we chose the 3 RU case size to be compact and the iStar case is ideal; well built with lots of rooms for drives. The
limitations it has is that it can’t fit a liquid cooling radiator or a powerful graphic card such as a GTX 760 or even the smaller but powerful GTX 660 because they require a power connector out of the top of the card. This doesn’t fit in the case. A future possible modification will be for us to solder 6 pin power connector leads from an extender cable to the power connector points on a GTX card and then we can install a more powerful graphic card connecting the power connector without it sticking out of the top of the card. If you don’t mind a bigger case, a 4 RU case will allow more flexibility. As configured it is blazingly fast, much faster than similar Ivy Bridge i7 machines we have so I’m not sure I need more graphic card performance.
We are very pleased with this unit and continue to test it and look forward to a live shoot.
For more info, free video production consultation, or just to chat, feel free to contact us anytime.